South of Mount Blanca on Colorado 159 is San Luis, the “Oldest Town in Colorado,” say the letters spelled out in white rocks on a hill overlooking the seat of Costilla County.
It’s also the home of the People’s Ditch, the first water rights granted in the state, as well as Colorado’s longest-operating business, the R&R Market, established in 1857, six years after San Luis was founded.
During Lent, San Luis is best known for its powerful Stations of the Cross, the 15 bronze sculptures depicting the path of Jesus’ Crucifixion, created during the 1990s by local artist Huberto Maestas.
The Sangre de Cristo Parish and donors worked with Maestas and the Knights of Columbus to place the statues along a steep path that overlooks the 1886 parish church. Pilgrims and penitents will find an adobe chapel at the top, as well as a grand view of the valley on a clear day.
A roadside marker for La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia points to the beginning of the trail over a small bridge. Most of the mile- long path is unpaved, but the switchbacks aren’t steep.
Each statue is positioned next to a bronze plaque, anchored in concrete, listing the name of the station, corresponding Bible verses, and the names of donors.
The statues are intricately detailed, down to the folds of garments and locks of hair.
Father Pat Valdez, started the whole project during his ministry for over 25 years in the Valley, he invited friends and all families to sponsor one station, he use to lead the people for the stations, specially during lent, with the Theatine brothers with him. I heard many times Fr.Pat say to someone: Are you depressed? Go and walk the stations, it will help you! they certainly came back to thank him for it!
Walking the stations is a beautiful thing, it helps us to meditate and walk with Jesus with our hearts, relating to what he suffered for our salvation. We all have something to think about or someone to pray for.
Many pilgrims come from all over, even from Canada, they come and stop to visit the shrine.
To reach San Luis, drive 160 miles south from Denver on Interstate 25 to Walsenburg. Take U.S. 160 west 47 miles to Fort Garland, and drive south for 16 miles on Colorado 159.
The San Luis Visitors Center is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 410 Main St., San Luis; 719-672-3002.
The parish gift shop is open 2-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or by appointment. It shares a phone number — 719-672-3685 — with the Sangre de Cristo Parish
Stations of the Cross
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus is given his cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets his mother
5. Simon carries the cross (above left)
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time (above right)
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9. Jesus falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus is removed from the cross (left)
14. Jesus is placed in the tomb
15. The resurrection of Jesus
The San Luis Shrine